Fish patterning is a modern term for a very old methodology. It is a reasonable, deliberate and highly effective way of fishing. It depends on understanding the dynamic relationship between predator and prey in their environment. The phrase describes the essential survival approach to fishing that enabled commercial and professional fisherman to succeed in their day-to-day quest for a good catch that would ensure their livelihood.
Patterning fish behavior is similar to hunting. With all methods of hunting, you must study your quarry to understand their behavior. Many modern sport anglers simply arrive at a familiar spot and hope to catch fish. Their fishing strategy is limited to chance occurrence. Anglers who fish that way are de-
pendent on happenstance alone rather than observed, fact-based knowledge.
Fish, like all successful predators, base their feeding routines on the habits of their prey. Fish do not starve to death because of poor luck. They have an intimate knowledge of how to find food. Like these fish, the best fishermen are familiar with their quarry’s routines and use this knowledge to form strategies that enhance their chance of success. Learning how fish find bait in their environment is fundamental to becoming a consistently successful angler.
Develop a Plan
The fast lane to learning how to pattern fish is to study the flats. Flats have finite borders that are filled with classic structures like bars and channels, coves and points, rips, basins, and various bottom types (mud, sand, cobble and grass). And fish are restricted in their ability to move. They are subject to the boundaries of the environment. Flats are first and foremost laboratories for observing fish behavior.
The first task is to develop a plan or a strategy that you can use to find fish. Simplicity is the order of the day. Start by heading to a flat at slack low tide so you can study its structure. Fish move along structure lines, and it is critical to note where the bars drop into channels, where one bar ends and another begins,
where there are grass beds and where there is higher ground. The bait will follow those edges when the tide floods, and larger fish will follow the bait.
Then start at the shallowest edge that you can get to and move along, and head into the current, parallel to the flow. This will do several things for you in short order. It will eliminate water that is not holding fish in a matter of minutes. Using a depth line as a guide and following it allows you to observe and quantify the life on the flat. This is the most important skill you can master.